Each May, the World Celebrates Victoria Day. Here are Five Places in Southern California to Experience Victorian Architecture and Culture.

Riverside’s Heritage House decked out for Christmas in 2022.

In the 21st century, peace, prosperity and progress remain goals – often elusive – of many in the world. Ironically, a century and a half ago, these conditions largely existed globally.

During the Victorian era (1837-1901), global society, while far from perfect, developed rapidly in terms of social justice, economic wellbeing, medical advances, scientific achievement and world peace.

Despite their shortcomings, the Victorian generation truly left their world better than they found it.

Each May, many nations celebrate Victoria Day, the birthday of Britain’s most influential monarch and arguably the most impactful woman in human history. More geographic place names have been named after Queen Victoria than any other woman except for the Virgin Mary.

In Southern California, Victorian times spanned the region’s development from a largely unknown outpost of the Spanish Empire to a vital part of the United States.

Southern California may not have the world’s best examples of Victorian architecture, compared to Britain and other Commonwealth nations.

But there are still some great places for the history buff, antiquarian or architecturalist to visit to come face to face with Victoriana.

Here are five spots not to miss.

Carroll Avenue (Los Angeles)

The largest concentration of Victorian homes in the Los Angeles area is on Carroll Avenue in the older Angelino Heights neighborhood, northwest of downtown.

These homes are private residences and should be respected as such, but there are numerous examples of Victorian architecture that can be photographed from the exterior.

Riverside’s Heritage House

This 1891 Queen Anne Victorian home is one of the best examples of this architectural style in the United States. In late Victorian times, Riverside had the nation’s highest per capita income due to citrus industry wealth. And the city had a significant British expatriate population, memorialized in many of the street names.

Heritage House is open free of charge Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays except for July and August. The grounds are also a great place to relax while taking a walk or bicycle ride down Magnolia Avenue.

Each year, Heritage House hosts a number of special events, including a Dickensian-themed Christmas party each December and a springtime ice cream social.

Heritage Hill Historical Park

South Orange County’s Victorian past is on display on four acres of land in Lake Forest, home to four restored buildings from 1863 to 1908: a Mexican adobe, an early schoolhouse, an early Episcopal church, and a turn-of-the-century farmhouse.

There is no admission fee and guided tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays, allowing visitors to access the buildings. At other times, only the grounds are open.

A Victorian home in Redlands. Photo from Pixabay

Kimberly Crest and Downtown Redlands

Perhaps no Southern California city has as much late 19th century architecture – in quantity and quality – as Redlands.

The foremost example is Kimberly Crest House & Gardens, which is locally famous as both a wedding and event venue and a historical point of interest.

On any day of the week, the house can be easily seen on the trails of Prospect Park, which itself is notable for dramatic vistas of the San Bernardino Valley below.

But a 45-minute tour is also available, with $15 adult admission. Tickets are available online.

Newland House Museum

An 1898 farmhouse displaying a mix of Queen Anne and Midwestern architectural styles still stands in the midst of heavily developed Huntington Beach.

Once home to one of Surf City’s founding families, the home is open to the public on the first and third weekends of each month.

This is a great historic stop to add to your next beach excursion!

For a complete listing of 86 Victorian era historic home museums in California, check out the list maintained by the Victorian Preservation Association of Santa Clara Valley.

These are great additions to a vacation or family or business trip to another city or an afternoon stop at that older home in your neighborhood you always see but have never explored.

The Historic Southern California Blizzard of 2023

This photo of snowfall near Leroy and 34th in the city of San Bernardino is truly amazing, considering this is an altitude of about 1,500 feet! Photo from February 2023

The words “blizzard” and “Southern California” don’t seem to go together. Even more so when we consider the lower elevation valleys and foothills. But late February 2023 will go down in Southland history as the time when an almost unbelievable weather phenomenon brought heavy snowfall to low altitude communities across the Inland Empire and Los Angeles County with a depth and widespread coverage not seen since January 1949.

As the region’s climate has warmed due to the urban heat island effect (cities are always warmer than surrounding countryside due to blacktop, the built environment, etc.), and the suspected effects of global climate change, many weather experts have expressed skepticism that the region would ever see significant or widespread valley snowfall again. Indeed, the conditions for such an event are very particular and might not occur for decades even before urbanization and industrialization.

But on Feb. 22, the rare conditions became a reality as a very cold storm, yet wet enough to generate substantial precipitation, arrived in the region. Many foothill towns, down to an altitude of 1,000 feet in some spots, picked up light to moderate snow, with of course much heavier accumulations in the mountains.

This map from NBC Los Angeles’ radar shows the snowfall that occurred on the night of Feb. 22-23.

Snowfall map for Feb. 22-23, 2023. In addition to usual mountain spots, many lowland areas of the Inland Empire and the Santa Ana Mountains between Orange County and Riverside received significant snowfall.

The following day dawned crisp and partly cloudy in most spots, along with the realization that snow had fallen in some surprising spots, including the foothill towns of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Santa Clarita foothills, Moreno Valley, Perris, the agricultural parts of Riverside, and the Hemet area.

Following a period of warmer but rainier weather on Feb. 24, a cold front sweeping through on the morning of Feb. 25 brought an even deeper and more dramatic snowfall to virtually the entire Inland Empire east of the I-15 corridor, as well as many higher elevation valleys in Los Angeles County.

Snowfall map for Feb. 25.
Just a few days before this almost alpine scene was photographed, temperatures were sunny and in the 70s, classic Southern California early spring weather! Photo from February 2023

Campuses such as Cal State San Bernardino and the University of Redlands turned into winter wonderlands. A coat of snowfall on the Victorian and Spanish revival homes of the Inland Empire’s downtowns were a particularly memorable image.

For only the second time, a blizzard warning – for a combination of high winds and snow – was issued for the San Gabriel Mountains, the range behind Los Angeles. The first blizzard warning on record was instituted for the San Bernardino Mountains. Less severe winter weather advisories were put in place for valley and Inland Empire communities.

Seriously, this is unbelievable! Low elevation areas under 2,000 feet received more snow during the February 2023 storms than New York City and Philadelphia received over the winter!

But even that wasn’t the complete saga of the Southland’s exceedingly rare snowfall. On March 1, as the last storm of the season exited the area, rain surprisingly turned to snow during the afternoon in some surprising areas, including Disneyland, which saw some graupel for the first time ever! (It snowed in Anaheim in 1949, but back then, Disneyland did not yet exist, because the park opened in 1949)! Ice on windshields at midday in North Orange County was an exceedingly rare sight!

The freak snowfall of February 2023 has been part of an overall wetter winter that is making headway against the chronic drought that has bedeviled Southern California for the past 25 years. From a water supply standpoint, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, not unusual accumulations in the valleys, are what matters. Still, the snowfall of February 2023 will add a new layer to the complexity of Southern California weather and climate, already among the toughest to predict due to the sharp differences from season to season. Despite a changing climate, the recent snowfall has added humility to predictions, demonstrating that once in a generation cold waves can still happen in the 21st century.

Perhaps this event is similar to the cold wave that struck Texas in February 2021, which brought the coldest temperatures recorded in the Dallas area in 72 years. That event, like the February 2023 California snow, was not truly unprecedented in the historical record. But it was the first in living memory, and it was a type of weather condition widely unexpected to recur.

Together, these events are a reminder of the complexity and uncertainty involved in climate prediction.

Results of a LinkedIn poll in the aftermath of the rare snowfall that showcases public perceptions of the event in relation to climate change.
A light dusting of snow at Kimberly Crest mansion in Redlands on Feb. 25, 2023.
One lesson from the Blizzard of 2023: Even a few hundred feet of elevation makes a difference in Southern California. Homes such as this one in the affluent South Redlands neighborhood retained a coat of snow for hours, while snow melted quickly in the nearby downtown. Photo from February 2023


Mountain High Resort93 inches
End of Mt. Baldy Road77 inches
Running Springs71 inches
Lake Arrowhead68 inches
Crestline63 inches
Big Bear40 inches
Mount Wilson40 inches
Forest Falls36 inches
Mt. Baldy Village27 inches
Oak Glen26 inches
Devore Heights12 inches
Fontana2 inches
La Crescenta2 inches
Rialto1 inch
Bloomington0.5 inches
SOURCE: National Weather Service San Diego; National Weather Service Los Angeles; media reports

Want to See Snow Without Braving Mountain Roads? Here Are Seven Options During Low Altitude Snowfalls in Southern California.

A snow-covered Mt. Baldy visible from Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside. Photo from December 2019

This week, snowfall is expected at very low altitudes (as low as 1,000 feet in some spots). That means that while the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego metro areas won’t likely see snowfall, many outlying communities will. With predicted low snow levels, here are some spots to check out if you want to see the white stuff and don’t want to brave treacherous mountain roads.

(But please…don’t block roads and respect private property).


Higher elevation portions of the Santa Clarita Valley are as much as 2,000 feet high, and so can get a dusting of snow.

Mt. Baldy Village (elevation 4,193 feet) is technically in the mountains, but the drive up Mt. Baldy Road is quite easy. Hiking trails, Native American cultural displays, and a mountain-themed restaurant with live music enhances the experience.


Silverado Canyon lies between 1,000 and 2,000 feet in altitude in a steep and shady valley. Snow has been known to occur here from time to time. It’s a very interesting country-style town in the midst of Orange County.

The Ortega Highway in the Santa Ana Mountains often receives winter snow and isn’t too challenging if approached from San Juan Capistrano.

It’s rare but not unheard of for heavy snow to fall in the hills between the Inland Empire and Orange County, as this photo shows. Photo from December 2019


At more than 2,000 feet in altitude, Devore (near the intersection of the I-15 and I-215 freeways) has a number of parks where snow can be experienced during low altitude falls. Even the campus of California State University-San Bernardino can occasionally see snow! Especially at the observatory, accessible by a short uphill walk from campus.

The communities of Yucaipa, Banning, Beaumont and Calimesa receive snowfall one or two times in most winters. Each of these communities has great downtowns to check out on any visit, in addition to experiencing some snow.


Julian (elevation 4,226 feet) is a mountain town without the mountain drive. Great to visit at any time of year, it receives HEAVY snowfall on several occasions in most winters. This is the best snowy day trip from San Diego during cold winter storms.

A light dusting of spring snow near Cal State San Bernardino. Photo from Feb. 2022

P.S. – Snow may be rare at low altitudes in Southern California, but frost isn’t. Where I live, there has been a blanket of ice on at least a few dozen mornings this past winter. Maybe a bit more than usual, but certainly icy mornings aren’t unheard of. The best place to see frost on a cold winter morning is in the Arlington Heights area, which is still farmland, so it gets colder than the nearby cities.

Want to See Spring Wildflowers, But Can’t Visit Lake Elsinore’s Walker Canyon? Here Are Five Alternatives.

Wildflowers visible from Yucaipa Blvd. in Yucaipa in Feb. 2023

Heavy rain in December and January is bringing the promise of lovely wildflowers to hillsides across Southern California in spring 2023, though the extent and duration will depend on whether and how much additional rain falls during the remainder of February and March.

In 2019, the last wetter year in the Southland, many Californians flocked to Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore to witness a spectacular “superbloom” of poppies. Thousands of social media feeds included selfies and group shots taken amidst the lovely flowers.

This year, officials are closing the canyon to visitors, out of crowd management concerns and at the desire of local residents.

But the closure of Walker Canyon doesn’t mean you can’t get a good look at local wildflowers in 2023. Here are five alternative locations to visit. Though wherever you go, remember to take nothing but photos and be respectful of private property.

Flowers adorn the hillsides in the La Sierra area of Riverside that I used to run through as a child. This view is from Doty Trust Park. Photo from Feb. 2023

The Gavilan Hills

Essentially, this is visiting the other, quieter side of the Walker Canyon hillsides. The easiest approach is Lake Matthews Drive off Cajalco Road. Much of this area is part of the Lake Matthews Estelle Mountain Reserve. The nearby Hartford Springs County Park is a good spot for day hikes in this area.

Colorful poppies on the Gavilan Hills in spring 2019, the quieter side of the hillsides that drew thousands to Walker Canyon that year.

The La Sierra Hills

The hills between Norco and Riverside are accessible at several spots, including Doty Trust Park and Hidden Valley Nature Preserve. Mostly yellow flowers make the hillsides particularly lovely, while the views of the surrounding valleys are camera-perfect!

Anza Borrego Desert State Park

This desert nature preserve has been a popular place for wildflower hunters for decades. The town of Borrego Springs offers lodging, dining and supplies in the middle of this largely undeveloped natural area.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

This is probably the best opportunity to get up close and personal with California’s official state flowers, the golden poppy. There are eight miles of trails at this park near the High Desert town of Lancaster, as well as a visitor center with interpretive displays.

The Flower Fields in Carlsbad

These aren’t wildflowers per se but rather commercially grown flowers. But this is far and away the most spectacular flower spot in Southern California (and perhaps in all of the United States), in operation from March through Mother’s Day.

In addition to these spots, don’t forget your own neighborhood or commuting routes you travel each day. Take some time to explore your immediate environs – oftentimes there is considerable beauty right under your nose!

Truly unforgettable floral scenes at the Carlsbad flower fields in 2017.

How Redlands Helped Electrify the World

The two three-phase hydroelectric generators rated at 250-kw, 2400 volts, each, that comprised the trendsetting Redlands power project in 1893. Photo from Southern California Edison.

For most of us in the 21st century, electricity is a necessity of life. For several generations, we’ve relied on electrical power to light our homes and businesses and streets. The television, radio and computer all come into our lives through electricity. And now, with the push away from fossil fuels, the importance of electricity is growing even greater, encompassing our transportation and appliances as never before.

The discovery and harnessing of electricity goes back nearly three centuries, with many discoveries and innovations along the way. Benjamin Franklin’s storied lightning experiment in 1752, Michael Faraday’s first electric motor in 1821, and the 1878 launch of the Edison Electric Light Co. are some of the more well known.

But also significant was the advent of three phase electric power, which brings together power generation, transmission and distribution. This is the most commonly used grid system around the world. And it all began in Southern California. Specifically, in Redlands.

The Mill Creek No. 1 Hydroelectric Plant, seven miles east of Downtown Redlands on Mill Creek Road, was the first such system, beginning operation on Sept. 7, 1893.

Today, the plant is still in operation, as are two sister facilities that came later. After being declared an historic landmark, a plaque was erected to note the location, which is visible north of Bryant Street but before entering the San Bernardino National Forest. Take a right at the Mill Creek #3 Power House to see this and other interpretative displays about the pioneers of modern electrical grids.

The Mill Creek No. 1 proved that electricity could be transmitted long distances, making it possible to electrify not just one operation, but an entire city.

So how did Redlands get chosen for this unique honor?

At the time, the Inland Empire was rapidly developing as an agricultural center. But with scarce water supplies, it would be necessary to harness the energy of local streams and creeks to obtain power. Mill Creek was one option for the Redlands community, but the distance involved would require a novel solution. The power would be transmitted to Downtown Redlands using underground wooden power poles.

More than a century later, as policymakers face the challenge of seamlessly providing electrical power for the digital age, we can look back at our late Victorian forbearers for an example of ingenuity and adaptability.

Traversing Route 66: Exploring Mother Road Through the Inland Empire

For hot rod enthusiasts and American history nostalgists, Route 66 evokes memories of a simpler, quieter, and iconic era in the development of the United States. In the early 20th century, the motor vehicle was coming to the fore, and the 2,448-mile route from Los Angeles to Chicago served to connect America’s major cities as never before. Many older adults recall traveling Route 66 (considered the country’s “Mother Road”) for family vacations, to visit relatives out of state, for business travel or other purposes.

The interstate highway system established by President Dwight David Eisenhower in the 1950s gradually replaced Route 66. But in recent decades, history buffs have worked together to ensure that much of Route 66 is preserved.

One of the better marked and memorialized sections is in Southern California, particularly in the western Inland Empire from Claremont to Fontana.

A few days after Christmas 2022, I took advantage of the cool and cloudy weather to explore Route 66 in a way few do: By walking a 17-mile section of the route! I began in Claremont in early morning and ended in Rancho Cucamonga in midafternoon, a journey of more than 37,000 steps!

You may not choose to go by foot. But many of the highlights I discovered along the way are great to explore by car as well.

Foothill Boulevard: Route 66 in the I.E.

From Glendora to San Bernardino, Route 66 is known as Foothill Boulevard. It isn’t a freeway in the modern sense, but rather a mult-laned thoroughfare that goes through the business districts of the communities it traverses. Along the way, the Route 66 past is recalled in the names of shopping plazas, strip malls, gas stations, and even schools and churches.

Much of this route is relatively safe to walk, thanks to the modern sidewalks. The views of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north can also be quite spectacular, particularly after a winter’s snowfall. So winter or early spring might be the best time to visit – but there really isn’t a bad time, to be honest.

Claremont, with its iconic Ivy League-vibe downtown that evokes New England charm, is a destination in itself. The core of that community is along Indian Hill Boulevard, less than a mile south of Route 66. From Mediterranean kabobs to gourmet Italian food, Claremont is a diner’s paradise! The musically inclined will gravitate toward the Folk Music Center, a combination musical instrument and exotic record shop and music education center. The autumn colors are very lovely here – often even going into the new year – while spring blossoms are also quite memorable. A stroll through Downtown Claremont can easily last a few hours!

When I did my Route 66 walk, I joined Mother Road at Harvard Avenue, just a block or so from the California Botanic Garden that affords some of the best views of Mt. San Antonio, the 10,060-foot mountain towering over the foothill towns.

Upland: An Often Overlooked Downtown With Route 66 History and Iconic Charm

The downtowns of both Claremont and Upland are weekend destinations for travelers on the Metrolink train system. But between the two, Claremont gets most of the attention, likely because of the complex of seven colleges there and the superior marketing efforts of that city’s chamber of commerce.

But Downtown Upland, with mountain vistas, pioneer history, unique architecture and Route 66 nostalgia, shouldn’t be missed.

The center of the action begins at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Euclid Avenue. There stands the Madonna of the Trail, a timeless memorial to the hardworking, selfless and courageous pioneer women who played an invaluable role in America’s westward expansion.

Situated in a large median, the monument is great for selfies – and for stopping a moment to ponder all these unsung heroines of U.S. history.

The monument also serves as the southern terminus of Ye Bridal Path, a very walkable tree-lined route in the wide median on Euclid Avenue that continues up the foothills to the base of Mt. San Antonio.

To the south on Euclid Avenue is the core of Upland’s downtown, which dates to the first few decades of the 20th century.

Antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and family-owned stores are omnipresent here. Don’t miss Lucky’s Coffee Roasters or Local Baker and Café for a snack while supporting small businesses. The Outatime 80s Retro Shop is one of the best 1980s-themed novelty stores in Southern California. And the architecture of Upland’s civic buildings, including City Hall and the public library, are worth photographing.

Heading back to Route 66, the next point of interest is the Madonna Catholic Gift Shop at 1479 Foothill Boulevard. At first glance, this looks just like any Roman Catholic store, but a closer look reveals the largest collection of nun dolls in the world, representing all of the various orders. The dolls aren’t for sale, but can be viewed, providing insights into the diversity within the Catholic faith.

A Little Piece of the Agricultural Past in Rancho Cucamonga

Grove Avenue serves as the boundary between Upland and Rancho Cucamonga. The latter is usually known as an upscale, newer bedroom community that has become an industrial and logistical hub in its own right. But there are vestiges of the agricultural past here, and one greets you as you enter the city on Route 66: a vast strawberry farm that is still active in 2022!

This section of Route 66 might be a bit more run down, but it is also where you are most likely to see some old hot rods. On my walk, I saw cars from the 1920s and 1930s in this area.

Just a bit further is Sycamore Inn, a restaurant dating from 1848 that still serves guests its crab cakes, filet mignon, lamb and wines in a rustic lodge setting reminiscent of early America.

Then, the road becomes an underpass, with colorful murals memorializing Route 66 history. It is also nearby that the Route 66 Trailhead beckons hikers to see Mother Road from above. The 1.4-mile hiking route is relatively easy and includes interpretative displays. The more adventurous hiker can easily connect with other hiking trails from here.

As recently as a few decades ago, Rancho Cucamonga still had many active vineyards. Most are gone now, replaced by tract homes and warehouses. But the Cucamonga Winery Historic Landmark near the corner of Vineyard Avenue and Foothill Boulevard highlights California’s oldest commercial winery, which is still open. The water wheel is a great selfie spot!

The last historic spot on my route was the Cucamonga Service Station at 9670 Foothill Boulevard. Dating from 1915, this was an active gas station even before Route 66 existed. It is now a small museum and a spot for hot rod events throughout the year.

Seven Years Later, A Permanent Memorial Honors the Dec. 2 San Bernardino Fallen

The Curtain of Courage Memorial includes 14 alcoves honoring the victims of the Dec. 2 attack. Photo from Nov. 2022

Seven years after the worst Islamist terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11, the tragedy in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, 2015, can now be recognized as one of the turning points in modern American history. The terrorist couple that attacked colleagues at a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center inadvertently set in to motion the ascendency of Donald Trump to the GOP nomination – and by extension the presidency – since Trump’s tough anti-immigrant rhetoric got a big boost in the aftermath of the attack. Regardless of your views on Trump’s election, many major events in recent years, such as the chaotic response to COVID-19 or the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, would almost certainly not have occurred had Trump not risen to power, which in turn might well have not occurred were it not for the dastardly deed committed by the San Bernardino terrorists.

Looking specifically at the immediate aftermath of the Dec. 2 attack, 14 innocent people were killed and 24 others were injured. The city of San Bernardino, beset by high crime rates even in the best of times, rallied with the slogan “SB Strong.” And the decision of Apple Inc. to not cooperate with federal investigators in unlocking the terrorists’ iPhone was a major development in the technology and privacy controversy.

The informational plaques, in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, will form the basis of historical education about the events of Dec. 2 for generations to come. Photo from Nov. 2022
The Curtain of Courage Memorial provides a close to home reminder that freedom isn’t free. Photo from Nov. 2022.
Photo from Nov. 2022

In summer 2022, Inland Empire officials unveiled the long-awaited permanent memorial for the events of that December day in 2015.

Designed by world-renowned landscape artist Walter Hood after an international competition for best concept, the memorial is known as the Curtain of Courage and includes 14 alcoves, one for each of the victims.

It is situated on the east side of the San Bernardino County Government Center at 385 N. Arrowhead Ave. That’s a few miles away from the site of the shooting at the Inland Regional Center, but an appropriate spot since most of those who lost their lives were employed at the Environmental Health Services department at the San Bernardino County Government Center.

Downtown San Bernardino certainly has a reputation for high crime, but this memorial is relatively safe to visit, since it is under the surveillance and observation of city and county officials. Plan to go during the daytime and expect to spend around 30 minutes here.

As years go by, this will be a spot for parents and teachers to bring the next generation so they can be aware of the trauma the San Bernardino community faced in 2015.

When examining the alcoves, particularly poignant is the verse on Hal Bowman’s memorial: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). In a world in which violence, division and unrest are increasingly commonplace, these words first written by the Apostle Paul are a call to all of us to live at a higher plane in our troubled times.

2022 Archaeology Discovery Weekend at La Sierra University to Focus on Ancient Egypt

La Sierra University’s annual Archaeology Discovery Weekend, held each year on Veteran’s Day weekend, will in 2022 focus on discoveries in Ancient Egypt. The free two-day event on Nov. 12-13 will include expert presentations on Ancient Egypt’s pharaohs, including Tutankhamen, Ramesses and Akhenaton. Among the presenters will be Kate Liszka, Egyptology professor at Cal State San Bernardino. Register online today!

The World’s Largest and Most Famous Thermometer in a Small California Desert Town Recalls the World’s Hottest Temperature

The Baker Thermometer breaks the monotony of a desert drive with a reminder of the extreme temperatures recorded in this region of California. Photo from October 2022

There isn’t much of note in Baker, California, to put the town of 735 people in the Mojave Desert on the map. If it weren’t a rest stop on the way from Southern California to Las Vegas, it is doubtful that many people would find reason to visit here. But Baker’s claim to fame is an impressive one: It claims to be the site of the world’s largest (and most famous) thermometer, which records the world-record 134°F temperature observed in nearby Death Valley in 1913. Weekenders, truckers and business travelers are reminded of the extreme temperatures in this part of California when they see the current temperature (which quite often is well into the 100s) compared with the all-time record.

Baker was founded in 1908 as a station on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. It has been the site of the iconic thermometer since 1991. The 134-foot-tall steel electric sign was snapped by hurricane-force winds in 1993, but was rebuilt. More recently, it was renovated for a digital display.

Situated at the intersection of State Route 127 and Interstate 15, the town is the gateway to the expansive Death Valley region to the north. Baker itself sits at an altitude of 930 feet, much lower than Barstow or Las Vegas but higher than the 282 feet below sea level at Death Valley’s lowest point.

Therefore, Baker might be considered one of the “cooler” sections of the Death Valley region. Still, temperatures here have hit 125°F and average above 110°F in July.

A visitor to this community will find a town that has seen better days. Once the site of a major prison, Baker today is in decline, with many motels and shops of yesteryear permanently shuttered.

Though Baker may be in decline, it is forward-thinking enough to have an electric vehicle charging station. So Baker is a great place for Tesla owners to explore! Photo from October 2022
The brutal 134°F recorded in Death Valley in 1913 is so ingrained in the identity of the small nearby town of Baker, California. Photo from October 2022

But the thermometer, visible for miles away in either direction on the I-15, still makes this spot a great place to get out, take a stretch, and get a selfie or group pic. And perhaps buy a souvenir at the nearby gift shop. And maybe even plan your own excursion to the heart of Death Valley some 115 miles to the north.

I’d advise against visiting in midsummer. Despite a rush of interested tourists, the temperatures are just too extreme to enjoy safely. Come in the cooler months instead. Grab a bite to eat at one of the fast food establishments or the Mad Greek Mediterranean restaurant. And perhaps stay for the sunset, which is particularly beautiful here.

Baker is a reminder that every place – no matter how seemingly inhospitable – is unique and interesting. And that any superlative can be a locality’s claim to fame – and make it worthy of exploration.

A look at Downtown Baker. Photo from October 2022